Feature: Resolving Ghana’s Chronic Teacher Crises: Getting Our Priorities Right As A Nation

A Daily Graphic report published on the Ghanaweb on 19th February, 2010, that 10,000 Teachers Leave Classrooms Every Year, confirm many of the chronic and well known problems relating to teacher shortages in Ghana and the persistent lack of motivation for many teachers who take up the profession. It is estimated that as many as 10,000 Teachers leave the classroom each year – some for further studies and other reasons, but majority in search of opportunities in other professions perceived to offer better rewards. The plight of the teacher in Ghana is known, and reflects in the reluctance of young women to marry teachers to avoid their poor quality of lives! The report, jointly commissioned by GNAT and TEWU, offers distasteful reading. Teachers’ monthly wages on average is GH¢ 405, with some paid as low as GH¢ 74 per month. Does it surprise anyone that 75% of teachers will not recommend the profession to others? The simple answer is NO! Half of all teachers (50%) expressed the intention to leave the profession for improved service conditions and better wages elsewhere. The effect is a cycle of new teachers who not long after, follow the trend for other opportunities elsewhere, thus making nonsense of the effort that goes into dealing with the problem. Whilst many will agree that poor remuneration for teachers has been around for decades, the question that remains unanswered is clear: why have successive governments failed to deal with the problem? To be fair, the last NPP government made the effort to deal with some of the issues and increased wages which offered some hope to teachers. However, such efforts did little to shake away the image of the profession as a ‘no go’ area. As a nation, it is important for us to begin to get our priorities right. Evidence from the last population census in 2000 found a whopping 46% of the population as illiterate. If Ghana wants to achieve a middle class income status in a few years as has been suggested, then the quality of education must be a key part of that agenda. Increasingly, the world has become knowledge based and it is important for us Ghanaians to deal with some of the many problems that beset our education system of which teacher shortage is among the worst, if not the worst. Teachers are the most vital resource in improving the quality of education. How do we get our priorities right? Take for example the disbursement of GETFUND. There are large numbers of Ghanaians sponsored to study in tertiary educational institutions in Europe and America each year – for both postgraduate and undergraduate courses. It costs about £8000 per year on average in fees for an MA or MSC programme in the UK. In addition, sponsored students get allowances for rent, clothing, visits back home and others. By a crude estimate, it costs the Ghana government a minimum of £20000 per student per year to study abroad. Worst of all, the selection of students for scholarship is not based on national development priorities, and as is often the case determined largely by whom you know. Further, majority of those sponsored to study in Europe do not return to Ghana after their studies because there are no jobs. Many end up doing uncongenial jobs for survival abroad. The point is that other than people with jobs they can return to, or jobs can be created in line with national development agenda for such students to return to after their studies, the money will be better spent as part of improving conditions for teachers and education. Take also, the example of a teacher who leaves the profession after 30 or more years to a meagre pension and most likely no house of their own after years on low wages, compare that with an MP who leaves parliament after 4 years. An MP will expect ex gratia payments in millions of cedis, worth in some cases 20 times more than the pension of a teacher after 30 years in the profession. My view is that Ghana should reduce such benefits to MPs and instead use the money to top up wages of teachers. If MPs are not happy, they can become teachers when the conditions of service for teachers improve. In addition, making payments to politicians less attractive might be a way of cutting out professional politicians, and hopefully instead get people from varying professions to do honest and better quality work as part of our political system and development effort. Remove the idea that political position is a gateway to money, graft and corruption as perceived by most of our current politicians. Let us, as a nation begin to get our priorities right, begin to reward people who provide services essential to our development needs and our future. Let us cut down on propaganda and lip-service, and work to reward the teacher. Where there is the political will, there is a way. The teacher deserves better! By Stanley Coffie (Phd) ([email protected])